Friday’s 2A Boys Basketball: Bearcats Take Over EvCo’s Top Spot

W.F. West’s Brandon White (left) and Jordan Thomas (right) guard Centralia’s Michael Ajoge (center) on Friday in Chehalis.

STREAK OVER: W.F. West Beats Rival Centralia, 67-44, for First Time Since 2013; Cats Improve to 4-0 in League Play

By Aaron VanTuyl

avantuyl@chronline.com

 

It’s no secret that the Bearcats boast the biggest lineup in the Evergreen 2A Conference.

Friday night’s home matchup with Centralia showed just what the length can do to the opposition.

Bailey Cooper scored 20 points the W.F. West’s size didn’t give the Tigers much room to operate in a 67-44 rivalry win.

The victory has implications both tangible and intangible for the Bearcats; they’re now leading the EvCo with a 4-0 record, and the win ended a nine-game losing skid to their Hub City rivals.

“We were pretty confident, to be honest. We prepare a lot, we work really hard, and we felt like we deserve to win this game,” Cooper, a senior forward who shot 9 of 12 from the floor, said. “We felt like it’s been coming, for a long time.”

The two teams were tied at 3-0 in the EvCo standings heading into the game; the outcome, combined with Black Hills’ win over Tumwater on Friday, makes the Bearcats the team to beat at the midway point of the league season.

“I think it’s a tone setter, for sure,” said Bearcat point guard Jordan Thomas. “We just want to show them how hard we play.”

That was a big factor Friday. The Cats’ size — with a starting lineup going 6-foot, 6-3, 6-4, 6-5 and 6-8 — took its toll in their zone defense, racking up 18 deflections and forcing the Tigers into 20 turnovers.

It took its toll early. W.F. West went on an 8-0 run to wrap the first quarter with a 19-11 lead, and Centralia managed just one field goal from inside the 3-point arc before halftime.

“We came into the game wanting to play hard on defense and intercept passes. Get our hands on the ball and really just put pressure on them the whole length of the court and tire them out,” Thomas said. “They were hitting some shots, so we had to just find their shooters and get on them.”

Centralia hit five 3s in the first half, but just one after the break.

“We just tried to run our presses and match things up, and just keep that energy into the halfcourt defense,” Bearcat coach Chris White said. “I thought we really contested their shots well.”

Colby White converted an alley-oop pass from his older brother, Brandon, with 2 ½ minutes left in the third quarter, and Cooper scored 6 straight points to end the third and leave the Tigers up 51-32. Centralia couldn’t get the lead under 14 the rest of the way.

“We knew they were tough coming in. We knew they were long, and had some length to them,” Tiger coach Kyle Donahue said. “We knew we needed to keep them in front of us and make them shoot the ball a little bit, and take care of the rebounds, and we didn’t do either of those tonight.”

W.F. West shot an even 50 percent from the floor and attempted just seven 3-pointers, with Jordan Waring converting the Cats’ only triple in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats also held a 35-23 advantage on the boards.

Thomas scored 11 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds with three assists and three rebounds. Brandon White scored 12 points with seven boards and Colby White grabbed six boards with 6 points.

Nole Wollan added 13 points with six rebounds and four steals.

Michael Ajoge and Ben Janssan each scored 11 for Centralia, with Janssan adding five rebounds and five assists. The Tigers, though, went just 13 of 40 (33 percent) from the field and 6 of 21 (28 percent) from long range.

Notes: W.F. West (11-2 overall) is back in action on Monday, playing Mark Morris in a nonleague game at Lower Columbia College. … Centralia (7-7, 3-1 league) plays at Aberdeen on Wednesday. … Thomas, who played the first three years of his prep career in Centralia, said the pregame introductions were a bit strange. “When they were announcing names and they said ‘Centralia,’ I kind of perked up,” he said. “I’m not entirely used to it yet.”

 

At Chehalis

BEARCATS 67, TIGERS 44

Centralia   11 12 9 12 —44

W.F. West 19 15 17 16 —67

Centralia (44) — Wasson 7, Ajoge 11, Emmons 5, Janssan 11, Ashmore 6, Grimm 4

FG: 13 of 40 —.325 FT: 12 of 14 —.857 Reb. 23 (Grimm 6)

W.F. West (67) — Yarter 2, Kelly, Dobyns, Wollan 13, Thomas 11, Speck, Waring 3, B. White 12, C. White 6, Cooper 20

FG: 26 of 52 —.500 FT: 14 of 21 —.667 Reb. 35 (Thomas 8)

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